There was a time, not too long ago, when a night like this would have been expected when Rutgers took a trip to East Lansing, Mich

. Well, obviously, Rutgers would lose– and lose Rutgers had, nine straight times versus the Spartans since signing up with the Huge 10, with a typical success margin of 17.1 points. The only compelling moments of these matches generally came at the end, when Izzo sat behind the microphone and in some way discovered a way to extravagant praise on the Scarlet Knights and their head coach.

( Seriously, the way Izzo spoke about Eddie Jordan after some of those blowouts, you believed he was headed to the Naismith Hall of Popularity.).

But let’s be clear: This was not supposed to be one of those days. This ought to not have actually been one of those days. The Scarlet Knights showed up for this video game with a better record, a better ranking, and most significantly, a much better team.

Michigan State still blew them out of the arena.

” I didn’t have my people prepared. It’s on me,” head coach Steve Pikiell stated after the 68-45 loss. “We certainly have to play much better on the road, in a league like this, however Michigan State was excellent. They beat us in every location tonight.

” Simply disappointing.”.

One video game, naturally, does not specify a college basketball season– particularly not in the Big 10, the finest conference in the nation by a mile. This is not Izzo’s the majority of talented group, but it still as well coached and sound defensively as any opponent on the schedule.

The missed out on free tosses (once again). The poor shot choice. The layup after layup after layup that bricked off the rim or the backboard. ESPN star analyst Jay Bilas had hardly completed informing the national primetime audience about the “spectacular job” that Pikiell has done with this program when the players appeared intent on showing him incorrect.

This was more than missing shots, too, although there were a lot of those. The Scarlet Knights’ body movement was dreadful– slumped over shoulders, hands on hips, heads hanging. They played what appeared to be their worst 20 minutes of the season in the first half and just routed by 6, but then topped that bad effort with a complete no-show after intermission.

Think this too harsh?

Look: The days of patting this Rutgers team on the head after an excellent efficiency and aw-shucks-ing away a bad one are over. They were a good feel-good story last season, a team that climbed from the depths of Division 1 to take this tortured fanbase on a terrific flight up until the coronavirus ended it prematurely.

They are much better than that now– and they know it. They charged straight at the lofty expectations put on their shoulders in the preseason. They do not wish to be treated like the Little Engine That Could anymore, so do not do it.

” I came here for a championship game,” team leader Geo Baker said a month earlier after a win at Maryland. “I’m not truly anxious about rankings right now. We want to win a championship game. That’s our goal today.”.

Baker limped off the court after scoring five points in 24 unimaginative minutes versus the Spartans, but he was hardly the only absence. Center Myles Johnson had just 2 points as his failure to hit a totally free throw– he missed all seven of his efforts– seems to have totally thrown him off his game. Guard Jacob Young had 11 points but struck just 5 of 18 shots as most of his drives to the basket were unrewarded.

Rutgers, among the best rebounding teams in the country, were beat on the boards by 20. A margin that wide comes down to just getting out-hustled for loose balls.

” You get what you deserve in basketball, and when you go on the road and play a ranked team and play that way, you’re not going to have much success,” Pikiell said. “We’ve got to play better. We have actually got to make sure we recuperate.”.

That’s the only thing that matters now. The Scarlet Knights (7-3, 3-3 in the Big 10) can’t let this effort follow them back to Piscataway, where they’ll host an Ohio State team that handed them their first loss of the season 2 weeks earlier in Columbus.

This is an opportunity to rapidly prove to the college basketball world– and, for that matter, to themselves– that they are far better than the team that failed to reveal up in East Lansing on Tuesday night.

A loss to the Buckeyes, nevertheless, would suggest 4 losses in 5 games and, for Pikiell, his very first true crisis of the season.

Was this bad efficiency stolen from their not too distant past– a past they hoped that they had left forever– simply a surprising blip on the schedule? Or was it a precursor for more bad memories to resurface?

We’ll understand in a hurry.